How long should i travel in Sri Lanka?
This all depends upon you, your available time, budget and what you wish to see! But in my opinion the minimum you should travel here is 1 week, see my Sri Lanka/Maldives travel Itinerary for details on this to a few weeks.
But I found that 10 days is a great amount to time to tick of all the major attractions Sigirya Rock, Kandy, train ride and one safari of course!
After all Sri Lanka is only an island of 65,610 km², whereas India is 3.3M Km^2.
10 days doesn’t feel rushed, is nice for the budget, yet still plenty of time to explore!
Best time to visit Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka has a tropical asian climate, so is warm at any time throughout the year. However, they do have monsoons which are active during different times of the year & on different parts of the island.
The best time to visit Sri Lankas is between December & Feb/March. This is the best time if you plan on visiting the west coast or south west of Sri Lanka.
The best time to visit the east coast is between April-September.
Is Sri Lanka Cheaper than India?
Sri Lanka is a little more expensive than India. In terms of transport the limited train network doesn’t help (although charming!). Tuk Tuks are abundant.
Food is not expensive in Sri Lanka: For Example, here are some amounts i spent while traveling: In Negombo: $5 per person/day. For example, lunch at some local restaurants cost less than $1 for a massive plate of food!
Places like Kandy you will spend $5-$8/meal roughly depending on how close you are to the main street.
But like most places, it’s only as expensive as you want it to be! There are budget options & more luxury options!
Which airport do I fly into?
Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, is the main International Airport in Sri Lanka. This airport is located 30km to the north of Sri Lankas Capital city, Colombo. Airport code CMB.
Do i need a Visa to travel to Sri Lanka?
Yes, you will need a visa to travel to Sri Lanka. I suggest registering online then simply collecting it from the airport when you arrive in Sri Lanka.
Its quite a simple process just fill out the form online and pay the fee of $35 USD. Then they will send you a notification email to tell you if you have been approved.
I got my approval by the next morning, but i suggest you do this a couple weeks in advance to be on the safe side.
Sri Lanka 10 Day Itinerary:
- Sigiriya Rock
- Minneriya National Park
- Nuwara Eliya
Looping round to finish back in Colombo if you wish, or just head to the airport from Negombo, which is just 15km away!
Day 1: Colombo
Getting from Sri Lanka Airport (Bandaranaike) to Colombo?
Bandaranaike Airport to Colombo is 30km away with taxis and express buses running regularly. This can cost you anywhere from $0.70 to $20 depending upon you mode of transport and will take approximately 30-45 mins.
Taxi – The Taxis have air conditioning and cost between $15-$20 USD. (2600LKR-3600)
Bus – The Bus is definitely the most cost effective at just $4 (540 LKR& surprisingly comfortable option as it has AC. To catch it, head just across from the terminal and catch bus number 187-E3.
Colombo is an often overlooked city of which many people tend to pass through but to be honest there is so many great local sights & temples to see!
As alot of the attractions/temples are spread out you will have to hop on one of the many Tuk Tuks especially if your here for just one day.
It can get pretty hot during the morning, so i suggest doing your main sightseeing during the afternoon. Like any major tourist city, be aware of scammers offering to “show you the way”.
Attractions to see:
Gangaramaya Temple & Beira Lake
Gangaramaya Temple is a fantastic buddhist temple, with a unique architecture & everything from a gigantic buddha in the centre to one of the smallest buddha statues in the world.
Make sure you have spare change for the entrance fee which is 200 LKR, approx $1 USD)
Seema Malaka Temple
Located nearby to Gangaramaya temple is the golden buddha cladded Seema Malaka temple! Located over Beira Lake the temple is split into three platforms connected by small bridges.
Afterwards but sure to take a moment to admire the stunning Beira Lake.
Where to stay in Colombo?
For a fantastic accommodation choice in Sri Lanka & options to book now & pay later, i always use Booking follow the link for a tailored search on the best Colombo Accommodation: Booking.com/Colombo/Special-Search
Day 2: Dambulla
Dambulla is a small town, with the colorful temples and buddhist museum being the main highlights. Apart from that there isn’t alot else!
Keep your eyes out for the curious monkeys when venturing to the temples!
Places to Eat in Dambulla:
- Mango Mango – International food Restaurant
- Dambulla Heritage Resthouse Restaurant
- Bentota Bake House
Dambulla Royal Cave Temple:
On the way to Habarana, you have to stop at Dambulla Cave temple! A UNESCO word heritage site featuring a maze of fresco covered caves, the largest & most well preserved in Sri Lanka!
Also called the golden temple of Dambulla, the temples contain 153 buddha statues, in addition to Sri Lankan kings, gods & goddesses! There is a massive 80 caves in the area, but the 3 main ones include:
Cave of the Divine King
Highlights include at massive 14-meter statue of the Buddha!
Cave of the Great Kings
Like something form Indiana Jones, this is the largest Cave and a magical place featuring statues of gods and of course kings! The cave measures 52m from east to west, and 23m from the entrance to the back.
Great New Monastery
This has some amazing ceiling and wall paintings in the Kandy style .
How to get to Dambulla?
The most cost effective way of traveling in Sri Lanka is by Bus. Dambulla can be reached via Buses which arrive from:
- Colombo (148km west),
- Kandy (72km 2-3hours)
- Sigirya (20km)
- Anurahapura. (2-3 hours)
Where to stay in Dambulla?
For a fantastic accommodation choices in Dambulla, Follow the link Hotels/Dambulla/Special-Search
Day 3: Hike up Sigirya Rock
Sigirya is rock is the most iconic rock formation in Sri Lanka! At over 1300ft high (400m), this offers incredible panoramic views from the top!
To get to the top, you will have to take the stairs! In total, there are 1,200 steps to Lion Fortress, which is the highest viewpoint on Sigiriya rock.
Although, you need to be reasonably fit, there are many platforms along the way where you can take breaks & drink water! The views at the top are spectacularly worth it!
How to get to Sigiriya Rock from Dambulla?
The distance between Dambulla & Sigiriya is approximately 20km. Buses run regularly (every 30 minutes) and cost 40 LKR. Be aware the last bus leaves dambulla at 18:00.
You can also get a tuk-tuk from Dambulla to Sigirya, this shouldn’t cost more than 1,000 LKR ($5).
Sigirya was chosen by King Kasyapa who reigned between (477 – 495 CE) to be the new capital of Sri Lanka. The king built his palace atop of the 400m rock which gates in the shape of a lion! Hence the name Lion Fortress. When the king died the palace was completely deserted.
For more info on this see: Hot Air Balloon Tours in Sri Lanka: Epic Guide!
Head to Sigirya rock early in the morning, before the mid day sun cooks you and the tourist groups descend on the area, as it has become popular in recent years.
Bring Water & snacks on your journey & the hike!
If you have a few extra days head to Pidurangala Rock, which offering breath taking views of Sigiriya rock. You can also stay somewhere local, before heading to Kandy.
It costs $30 U.S.D fee to enter the Sigiriya Rock Fortress! This may seem quite alot considering the price of other things in Sri Lanka but it is definitely worth it.
However, if you are on a budget you should head to Pidurangala Rock which offers breath taking views of Sigiriya Rock, for just 500 LKR ($2.50)…bargain!
Where to Stay in Sigirya?
After planning on staying in guesthouses & hostels for most of our trip, we decided to treat ourselves for a couple of nights in Cassandra Culture Resort & Spa in Sigirya, probably one of the best value luxury resorts in Sri Lanka! Believe me it was worth every moment!
Day 3: Hike up Pidurangala Rock!
The hike to the top of Pidurangala Rock is pretty easy and only takes about 20 minutes. When at the top you will be greeted with breath taking panoramic views of the Sri Lankan wilderness!
Day 4-5: Habarana
Habarana is a small city in the Anuradhapura District of Sri Lanka. The city is popular with mid to upmarket hotels & resorts.
This is a good place if you fancy some comfort for the day & is also the perfect location to springboard yourself into a fantastic Safari with Minneriya National Park close by.
Popular attraction here include:
- Minneriya National Park
- Habarana Lake
- Hurulu Eco Park – Elephants & Jeep Safari
Where to stay in Habarana?
Habarana Village is Incredible by Cinnamon Hotels.
For a larger accommodation selection which covers a variety of budgets in Habarana/Sri Lanka click this link HERE
Day 5: Safari at Minneriya National Park
After spending lots of time in temples so far, it’s nice to head back out to daylight. Minneriya National Park is a place of awe & wonder, so a Safari here should definitely be on your bucket list.
Safari at Minneriya National Park
Minneriya National Park, was originally declared a wildlife sanctuary back in 1938 and you can see why! With seasonal groups of elephants and large flocks of tropical birds.
The main elephant gathering occurs between September & October when over 350 elephants flock to the dried out Minneriya lake.
The area is around 5 & half hours from Columbo. Close by you can find the ruined monasteries and royal palaces of Polonnaruwa!
You can also visit Kaudulla National Park nearby, sometimes the Elephants migrate over from Minneriya National Park. So ask you guide which would be better when you visit.
Where to Stay?
Day 6: Kandy
Kandy is Sri Lankas cultural hub and a must visit city for any length of trip to Sri Lanka, it’s also on the UNESCO list.
Temples of Sacred Tooth Relic
A popular attraction here is the Sacred Tooth Relic temple, this is one of the most spiritual places in Sri Lanka and legend says it contains a tooth relic from the Buddha.
Independent guides offer tours around the entire temple for around Rs 600 ($3). Free audio guides are also available from the ticket office.
If you time your trip correctly, you may get to experience one of the exciting fire shows which take place nearby, lots of times per week.
Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanical Gardens are truly awe inspiring! Located in Peradeniya, just 5km from Kandy, the Royal gardens are bucket list place for those who love all things nature!
With over 147 acres of lush greenery & colorful flowers there is plenty to explore! The main highlights include the orchid house and the suspension bridge.
Kandy is the perfect place to go Souvenir shopping, with plenty of unique gifts and natural health & beauty products on offer.
Where to stay in Kandy?
For our recommended accommodation in Sri Lanka check out this link HERE .
Day 7: Kandy to Nuwara Eliya by Train!
The wind in your hair, the scenic views and the noises of history, train Journeys around Sri Lanka, offer a scenic & ever so romantic way of seeing the country! That is why I suggest, taking one from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya!
This is part of the Kandy to Ella Train Journey which is known as the one of the most scenic in the world! You will see everything from tea plantations & banana trees to villages & waterfalls!
Your best bet is to take a train from Peradeniya station, about 7 km from Kandy (take a tuk tuk or Bus) to Nanu Oya station approximately 8 km from Nuwara Eliya. 2 trains run daily , which depart Peradeniya at 08:40 and 12:23.
2nd or 1st Class?
The main difference here being AC, to be honest I was in 2nd class and it was fine due to the many open windows. Also, considering Nuwara Eliya is mountainous and the Coldest city is Sri Lanka! The temperature was less than 20’C in august, either way the choice is yours
Which side of the Train should I sit?
Kandy – Nuwara Eliya, sit on the right side for most of the sights, and if coming back sit on the left side. (Left and right referenced to the forward direction of the train).
Favourite Train Photo?
Of course while on the train you have to get everybody’s favourite instagram photo, hanging out the doors, or simply popping your head out! This is cliche but you can’t resist but doing it! To be honest it does capture the experience.
How much does the train cost?
The train is pretty cheap, less then $6 if you pay in the local currency. For example, the train Kandy to Ella is only $8!
Bring some on train drinks & snacks as the journey is very long, they do sell some on the train but there is not much of a quality selection. As you approach large train stations, some sellers will offer you goods through the window!
Issues with the Train?
There have been many reports of the train getting really full and people being unable to get a ticket, especially during peak season, (up until march).
Faster Options include:
- Tuk Tuk Journey – 2-3 hours
- Bus – 2-3 hours
A Tuk Tuk Journey with a cool river/guide is perfect as you can stop when you see great sights, take photos and even stop for snacks! Definitely consider this an option, if your traveling during peak season.
Day 7-8: Nuwara Elliya
Nuwara Elliya means the “city of light” and is a Scenic hilly area covered with lush Tea Plantations. Popular attractions here include:
Pedro Tea Estate, Factory Tour
Pedro Tea Estate is located 3.5km east of Nuwara Eliya towards Kandapola. The 20 minute guided tour is interesting as you get to see machinery built in 1885, but I was disappointed not to see much tea brimming action in the factory.
It turns out here they make a lighter tea, in which processing only happens at night when its colder!
Insider Tip (Leeches!):
Watch out for leeches if your heading into the tea plantations & out into fields! Eww! The rainforest & hill country areas of Sri Lanka are know to have an abundance of leeches!
What is a leech?
Leeches are segmented predatory worms which sense movement of animals/people then move towards then. After they attempt to latch onto the skin with a bite in order to suck small amount of blood!
Are Leeches dangerous?
Despite the many myths out there, popularised in Hollywood from movies like Rambo!
Been bitten by a Leech is generally not dangerous, but it can be annoying! The Leech bite doesn’t cause any pain, as it releases an anaesthetic before biting!
When I was in Sri Lanka, i was bitten by 4 leeches and just scraped them off! But to be honest it’s a little gruesome & thus best to avoid them! Here are some top leech prevention tips to help you out!
Leech Prevention Tips in Sri Lanka:
- Be aware of more Leeches in Hilly, natural areas. Especially, near rainforests in the south west or the hill country!
- Leeches will be more abundant after rainfall, so keep aware then.
- Wear long pants/trousers to cover any exposed skin. Thicker pants are better as they can burrow through thin pants!
- Bring Leech Protection. (Best to buy it before you travel, there are not many places which sell it in Colombo). Apply Cream or Spray to everything, shoes, socks , clothing etc.
- Wear Leech Socks! Leeches can burrow through thin socks and even through gaps in shoes!
- If Bitten by a leech, DON’T PANIC! Gently scrap it of a flant blunt object or even a long finger nail. The goal is to break the suction pad!
- DON’T: Spray or Burn the leech! This may cause them to go into fight or flight mode & be sick inside your wound, this will increase your chances of infection.
- Bleeding is normal after.
- After the Leech is removed, wash the cut with antibacterial wash & water. Then apply an antiseptic cream before bandaging to stop any bleeding.
- In General Leech bites aren’t dangerous & you won’t get an infection if you follow the correct tips!
Beautiful Gardens located 10km southeast of Nuwara Eliya. Popular sights include, the fine rose garden, the orchid selection and even a Japanese Garden! Be aware the entrance fee can be a little high.
Try to avoid the gardens between Jan-March as this is the planting season so the garden will not look as good as normal.
How to get to Hakgala Gardens?
To get to Hakgala Gardens, take a Welimada-bound bus (Rs 22) it takes 20 minutes.
Best Viewpoint – Lovers Leap Waterfall!
After heading to Pedro Tea Estate, take a fantastic walk 5km (round-trip) walk to Lovers Leap, a stunning waterfall.
Other highlights include: Seetha Amman Temple, and Lake Gregory
Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya?
For a fantastic accommodation choice in Nuwara Eliya, follow this link HERE
Day 9-10: Negombo beach
After trekking through Sri Lanka, its nice to relax on at least one Sri Lankan Beach before jetting off! Located just 15 km from the airport, Negombo Beach is a stunning retreat to relax & watch the sunset.
However, be aware that like lots of Sri Lanka the seas can sometimes be rough so don’t expect tranquility much there…but if your a surfer its heaven!
Negombo is actually a great place explore for up to 3 days & being so close to Colombo airport (15km) you can relax without worrying about transfers!
What to Pack for Sri Lanka?
- Light cotton clothes for the day, as the temperature is hot & humid and a light jacket for the evening when it cools.
- Light waterproof jacket, or Poncho & small umbrella. In case you get caught in one of Sri Lankas Monsoons.
- Swimwear, UV sunscreen. In addition to a Safari style hat & sunglasses to take the edge of the midday sun.
- Shawl for women, to cover themselves when entering holy temples. They usually aren’t provided, unlike other countries in Asia such as Thailand.
- Sri Lanka uses 220V electrical system (similar the U.K). So leave any 110v only items at home unless you have a voltage converter.
- Plug type in Sri Lanka is both the three-pinned square Plug (like the UK) and three-pinned rounded plugs (like India). So you will need a universal travel adapter or a couple of different ones.
- Insect repellent appropriate for mosquitos & flies
- Leech Repellent for Leeches
- Some Insect repellents work for Mosquitos, flies & the land based leeches! So I suggest one of these brands such as: Mosi-Guard and Ultrathon Insect Repllent.
- Make sure to bring Leech socks, pesky leeches!
Extra Things to Pack:
- Robust Camera, which spare batteries/chargers.
- Travel Plug strip connector. To connect multiple devices to one socket.
- Travel Binoculars if heading on a Safari.
- Travel flashlight.
- Antiseptic gel and Antiseptic cream for cuts.
- Small first aid kit.
Sri Lanka 10 Day Itinerary Cost:
Sri Lanka is one of those countries where you can spend a little or a lot depending upon the level of comfort you wish to have! There are many suitable budget guesthouses which do the trick & there are also many luxury resorts with spas etc to pamper yourself! For example see our: Magical Honeymoon Resorts in Sri Lanka
When we went, me & my partner, chose budget guesthouses mainly but did splash out in a few nice resorts near the end, to treat ourselves. This is a good formula we found,
“Save on what you don’t care about & spend on what you do!”.
98 Acres resort & Spa is a fantastic place to pamper yourself!
As Stated Earlier:
“Food is not expensive in Sri Lanka: For Example, here are some amounts i spent while traveling: In Negombo: $5 per person/day. For example, lunch at some local restaurants cost less than $1 for a massive plate of food!
Places like Kandy you will spend $5-$8/meal roughly depending on how close you are to the main street. ”
- Hostels/guesthouses cost on average between $10-$15/night pp.
- Including accommodation, food, transport and entrance fees me & my partner spent around $400 together over 10 days, approximately $20 per person per day! So it is possible to do it on the cheap!
Where to Stay in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka has a series of great accommodation choices from Budget Guests houses to Luxurious Resorts! We stayed in Guesthouses mostly for our trip but then treated ourselves for a couple of nights in Cassandra Culture Resort & Spa in Sigirya, probably one of the best value luxury resorts in Sri Lanka!
Cassandra Culture Resort & Spa – Sigirya.
This is one of our favourites offering, ultimate luxury, friendly staff and great value. The Honeymoon suite features a Jacuzzi bath and and the food was superb.
Check availability & compare the best prices by following the link HERE
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